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Guest Post from Suzanne of The Fearless Formula Feeder- Mean People Suck.

I’m happy to share this guest post from Suzanne Barston the a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP.  Suzanne writes over at the Fearless Formula Feeder, a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents.  I asked to cross post her article because I thought it was well written and offered a perspective that should touch all of our humanity about how we treat others in the name of a cause.  My friendship with Suzanne has been growing and I deeply respect her, the work she does, and her heart because while it may seem at first glance that she and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum, we are, in fact, more similar than we are different.  I highly encourage my readers to quietly spend some time on her website and Facebook page listening and learning.  To genuinely support you have to first listen to what those needing support actually need and don’t assume you know better than they.  This article was originally published here.  ~Jessica

by Suzanne Barston

Back in the 90’s, before the age of memes, bumper stickers were the best of sending the world (or at least the person stuck behind you in traffic) a message about your political leanings, philosophy, or the status of your child’s “Good Citizenship” in school. People got seriously creative with these little strips of adhesive, but there was one that seemed to be strike a chord with the folks I typically associated with. The Birkenstocks-wearing, Ani-DiFranco-listening, liberal-arts-major types. The message that seemed to be stuck to the back of everyone’s used Volvo was this:

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Mean People Suck.

Catchy, isn’t it?

But what I’ve realized in my late thirties is that mean people do more than just “suck”. The screw things up for the rest of us, in serious, systemic ways. They are the cops who brutalize minor offenders based on the color of their skin; the politicians who refuse to see the human side of their voting record, the instigators of road rage. And in the parenting world, they are the women who perpetuate the mommy wars (such a stupid and patronizing term, for a stupid and patronizing problem).

The thing is, mommy “wars” may be stupid, but their effect is far-reaching and profound. They make us believe we need to take sides, choose a team, thus dividing us and making it ridiculously easy to conquer us. And by conquering us, I mean keeping us from fighting collectively for better family leave, better maternal health care, better resources and options for our children and ourselves. We’re so busy trying to prove we’re an Alpha Female, conveniently forgetting that alpha males are generally assholes.

Speaking of Alpha Females, there’s a woman who has built up an impressive following on the Internet who I’ve tried to avoid giving airtime for the past year or so, after a few run-ins that made it clear her only motivation in life is to fight. I’ve tried thinking about her in a new-agey way, considering what made her the way she is, and trying to feel sympathy for her anger and vitriol rather than letting her make me act in turn. But when Jessica from the Leaky Boob – a woman I admire greatly and am proud to consider a friend – reached out to me about this Alpha person’s latest assault, I agreed to speak up.

I agreed to speak up because my friendship with Jessica is based on everything that this other person is trying her damndest to destroy. Jessica runs one of the most respected and beloved communities for breastfeeding women. I run a modest but pretty vocal community of people who take issue with the current state of breastfeeding promotion (as well as people who are totally cool with breastfeeding promotion, but ended up using formula for whatever reason and are willing to put up with the constant drama and debate because they have few other communities where they feel safe asking questions about formula feeding). We’re part of an informal community of breastfeeding advocates (and me, although I do consider myself a breastfeeding advocate, albeit a strange hybrid of one) where we discuss ways to better serve all mothers and provide REAL support and education. It’s actually really awesome to see how women can work together to find solutions even when they come from opposite ends of the parenting spectrum.

The Alpha individual operates on the premise that working relationships (and friendships) like this cannot – or should not – exist. Her page and blog are consistently dedicated to making fun of those who haven’t lived up to her own personal standards. Her work wouldn’t be worth mentioning at all, except for the fact that she has gotten the seal of approval from several notable breastfeeding researchers and advocates, including James Akre, who writes regular (and strikingly misogynist) guest posts for her blog. The woman knows how to get page views and Facebook likes. You have to admire her for that.

But in the immortal words of Stan Lee (and as I keep telling my Marvel comic-obsessed son), with great power comes great responsibility. And when someone with a fair share of public attention does something incredibly harmful, not only to a movement (those invested in creating a more supportive environment among mothers) but more importantly to an individual, that is an abuse of power, and seriously irresponsible.

Here are the facts: The blogger in question stole a photo of a woman in an emotional moment and used it to promote her recurring message that formula feeding parents are lazy and un-invested in their children. The photo was of a woman hooked up to wires, looking at least semi-unconscious, with a baby being held up to her breast. The blogger superimposed the word “obsessed” on the photo, meant in a “positive” way, as in, yes; this woman was obsessed with breastfeeding, which was a good thing because it meant she was properly dedicated. Unlike the rest of you nitwits.

The thing is, that was the antithesis of what this photo meant to the mom featured in it. This was, for her, a memory of something she went through with her child. I don’t know if that memory was positive or negative or something in between, as most postpartum memories are when something goes awry. It’s not my business to know. It’s hers. She didn’t intend for her image to be used this way. We don’t know the backstory behind the image, which I’m sure is human and flawed and beautiful and complicated.

But bloggers like the Alpha person are not complicated. They are simple. They are mean. And mean people suck.

They suck the life out of images like this; make them fodder for a contrived mommy war. They suck the life out of breastfeeding advocacy efforts, because they perpetuate the myth of the “breastapo” by becoming a caricature of that concept.  They suck the joy out of parenting, by making it a competition. They suck the intelligence and nuance out of what could be a productive debate between people who genuinely care about maternal and child health. And they suck the energy out of bloggers like Jessica and myself, who resent that we feel forced into a corner and made to confront this type of bottom-feeding behavior, when we could be focusing our collective efforts on something more productive.

Alpha types will always exist, these parasites that feed on fear, loneliness and feelings of inferiority. But parasites can be stopped if their food source is cut off. That’s why we are asking both of our communities to stop engaging. Don’t be a food source. Don’t visit her site. Don’t comment on the Facebook page, even if it’s to fight back against the hate. Just don’t engage.

If you see people you respect at risk of an infestation, let them know the true nature of the beast. Speak up when respected advocates are partnering with her or linking to her work. Let those around you know that this type of behavior does not advocate breastfeeding; it advocates bullying, shaming and hate.

And if you see one of her memes, post one of your own. One from a time before the internet allowed the best and worst of humanity to be distributed worldwide: Mean People Suck. Because they do.

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One Creative Mama Giveaway

You all may know Judy Masucci from A Mother’s Boutique – she has been a long-time sponsor of The Leaky Boob, a mom and a breastfeeding advocate.  Well, she’s back with a new venture – One Creative Mama – cute breastfeeding advocacy gear for babies.  What a great way to show the world how much you and your little one love breastfeeding!  Judy is excited to introduce you to her new company and give 5 lucky Leakies some great gear too!

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TLB:  What should TLB readers know about One Creative Mama?

Judy:  One Creative Mama was founded by a mom, lactation educator and breastfeeding advocate.  Her name was Sarah – and I used to purchase her items for my store.  About 2-3 years ago, Sarah stopped making the One Creative mama items because she has changed her focus to in-person mentoring of moms instead of making products.  So I decided to buy the business and give it a new look.  I took all of Sarah’s great breastfeeding advocacy sayings and made them into cute colorful shirts and rompers – so that babies can tell the world just how much they love breastfeeding!

TLB:  What’s the inspiration behind One Creative Mama?

Judy:  I am a huge breastfeeding advocate.  When the original owner of One Creative Mama decided that she wasn’t going to continue with her business anymore, I decided to carry on where she left off.  I love her creative sayings and I knew that I could build this business into a way for moms and babies to express themselves and their love for nursing in a cute, whimsical way.  It gives moms a chance to show off their babies and it tells the world that bresatfeeding is so normal – it’s on a baby’s shirt!

TLB:  How is breastfeeding advocacy important and how does One Creative Mama support breastfeeding?

Judy:  Normalizing breastfeeding is so important because when something is “normal” then everything gets easier.  Women won’t have to worry about being scorned for breastfeeding or asked to leave their location.  We have laws in place, but the best way to help normalize breastfeeding is to do it – openly and publically.  And wearing shirts that tell the world you are breastfeeding also serve to normalize it.  So for mom and baby – we make cute, whimsical shirts and rompers that are fun to wear and fun to give as gifts.  And for the world – it’s one small step toward the normalization of breastfeeding as the normal way of feeding your baby.

TLB:  What’s your favorite breastfeeding tip?

Judy:  My favorite tip is to stick with it.  In the early days, everything is difficult and lack of sleep can make it seem like it won’t get any easier.  But if you stick with it through the early days, it will get easier and you will get to enjoy a wonderful bonding session with your baby time and time again.

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Judy is giving away 3 different prizes to 5 lucky Leakies.

The prizes are:

  1. A One Creative Mama Baby Romper – your choice of saying, size and color – Five great sayings to choose from.  Retail Value: $17.99 – ONE winner
  2. A One Creative Mama Baby Shirt – your choice of saying, size and color – Five great sayings to choose from.  Retail Value: $12.99 – TWO winners
  3. A One Creative Mama Baby Bib – your choice of saying and color – Five great sayings to choose from.  Retail Value: $10.99 – TWO winners

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Currently Leakies can find these and other great breastfeeding and baby items on the One Creative Mama website.  

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Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered.  The giveaway is open from April 17, 2013 through April 23, 2013.  A big thanks to Judy and One Creative Mama for their ongoing support of TLB and all breastfeeding women; please be sure to visit their Facebook page  or follow them on twitter  (@OneCreativeMama on Twitter) and thank them for their support of TLB and this giveaway opportunity.

This giveaway is restricted to U.S. residents only.

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Breastfeeding? Check. Now What?

by Nancy Massotto, Ph.D

Parenthood is often the threshold we cross that brings us into a greater awareness of healthy and sustainability. As an expectant or new mom, we start to investigate the benefits and risks of all of our parenting decisions and consider how our choices impact our children and the future. When you’re new to breastfeeding, your focus is on the mechanics of milk production and latch. You have questions about how to solve problems like thrush or what pump to buy. Once you have settled into a pattern, we tend to settle into a routine. But then what? How do you continue to advocate for breastfeeding after your children are weaned?

When you bring home a newborn it seems like you’ll never have a child in junior high, but that day comes sooner than you realize, and slowly, over the years, our focus as moms changes from diapers and starting solid foods and breastfeeding to PTA meetings and whether our kids really need a cell phone. But, to really change how our babies are fed, we can’t leave the important issues, like breastfeeding, behind.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do more than just say we’re advocates and actually be activists lately. Not everyone is willing or able to march in Washington, DC but the simple actions that we take are, indeed, activist and contribute to change – or not. Apathy and a lack of participation is one of our culture’s greatest dangers. At HMN, we fight hard against both of these challenges.

For example, our Holistic Moms Conference had to change locations due to a labor dispute that was affecting low-wage working moms, and the struggle to promote the new location, explain why it’s so important to meet face-to-face with other moms and answer questions has been taking up all my time.

Supporting our event is critical for the future of our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and yet getting people committed to making change is an uphill battle. Many people are too busy to stand up and make a difference, even in something small like supporting a cause or event. It made me realize that it’s easy to lose sight of what activism really is, and how important it is to keep breastfeeding, holistic living, and other important issues front and center with our kids.

Whether you have a nursling or a grandchild, we all need to “do” something to promote breastfeeding as the normal way to feed human babies and not just claim to be breastfeeding supporters. How do you do that? For many of us, we support nursing moms when we run into one at the mall or when a friend gets pregnant and we have the opportunity to offer support and encourage her. But, we don’t feed that passion for breastfeeding on an every day basis.

I’ve spent years researching and promoting real-life interaction and community-building for mothers. Numerous studies show that online communities are fantastic but they are not the same as looking someone in the eye and feeling their empathy when you are having a rough day. We all need to feel accepted, empowered and loved in a way that only a face-to-face encounter can provide.

The bottom line is that we need mom-to-mom interactions and community in our real life. That’s why I founded Holistic Moms Network. Whether you’re a holistic mom or a mainstream mom or a mom who wants to hang with other moms who are young, enjoy opera music, or are otherwise unique, the important thing is that you need to do it. You need to feed yourself, your passions, and the motherhood movement by being a participant, not by being a bystander or sidelines cheerleader.

Sure, for many of us it sounds like another thing to put on the calendar or another thing to take time away from family or sleep. But, connecting with others revitalizes you, makes you feel better about yourself as a woman and a mom, and gives resources you didn’t have before.

In the case of La Leche League or Holistic Moms or another natural parenting group, you also show your kids that you are passionate about breastfeeding, that you help other moms breastfeed long after you stop breastfeeding your own children, and that you care deeply about how babies are fed and raised. You empower your daughters to find a tribe when they are new mothers and not give up on their goals. You show your sons how to support their breastfeeding partners and they grow up knowing it’s important. And, along the way, you form deep friendships that can grow with you as your children grow.

Of course, I’m partial to our upcoming Natural Living Conference and believe it is an amazing way to show support, fill your cup, and feel connected. It is a fabulous opportunity to meet eco-celebrities and companies that you may talk to on Twitter but never get to interact with in person. Imagine how life changing it can be to spend a whole day surrounded by people who understand your passions and support your views? It doesn’t matter how green/holistic you are – HMN is about the journey to more natural lifestyle, the challenges we each face, and supporting one another along the way. The whole point of our organization is not to judge other parents but to empower all of us as a community to research and make educated choices. Being a participant is a gift to you, to others, and to the entire community.

Show your children that you care enough about something to show up, to be there, and to be open to learning, growing, and connecting!

For a chance to go to the Natural Living Conference for free, check out this giveaway.

 Holistic Parenting Expert and Executive Director of the Holistic Moms Network,  Dr. Nancy Massotto, Ph.D is a dedicated advocate for holistic medicine and green  living. She is the mother of two boys, both born at home. Before embarking on her  journey into motherhood, Dr. Massotto earned her Ph.D. in political science from  the University of Maryland, specializing in gender studies, women’s issues, and  international affairs. She also holds Master’s degrees from George Washington  University, Elliot School of International Affairs, and the University of Maryland.  Dr. Massotto has lectured at several universities on gender studies, international relations, and women’s issues, including at American University and George Washington University. She conducted research on women’s issues while working for non-profit research institutes and organizations in the Washington, D.C. area, including the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the Women’s Research and Education Institute (WREI), authoring and co-authoring publications during her tenure.
Motherhood renewed her interest in community building and strengthened her commitment to natural living, from which the Holistic Moms Network was born.